Stepping outside her comfort zone: How one New York native made Columbus home
By: Madeleine Thomas
3L Garychka Sylvain, a Long Island native, never imagined leaving New York. She applied to the Moritz College of Law at the urging of a college mentor from her alma mater, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who suggested that she try pushing herself outside her comfort zones. The move was a big leap of faith for Sylvain, who had never lived away from home before. Yet the risks she took as a 1L ultimately became her biggest rewards. After she graduates with her JD this spring, Sylvain hopes to remain in the Columbus area to pursue a career in corporate litigation.
“I honestly really love it here,” Sylvain said. “Columbus has a really nice tight-knit legal community, so it’s very easy to branch out, especially as an outsider. I’ve built a lot of great relationships with a lot of attorneys and mentoring relationships as well. I stayed home with my parents for undergrad and this was my first experience living on my own. I feel like this experience set the tone for my adulthood. I made Columbus my home. It was such a huge step in my life to move so far away from where I was comfortable.”
Sylvain has spent the last year as a litigation law clerk for Alliance Data, where she helps review and draft settlement agreements and interacts with outside counsel. Throughout her law school career she also served as a judicial extern for the Franklin County Municipal Court and as a summer associate for the Columbus-based firm Bailey Cavalieri.
“I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, mostly because I’m a person of color and the law always affects me in some way, shape or form, so that has always been a motive for me in wanting to pursue a law degree,” she said.
While Sylvain has tailored much of her coursework around business and corporate law, she has also used her law school experience as an opportunity to wade into other areas of the legal world as well. Last semester, for example, she examined the historical and philosophical contexts of legal institutions from the Bible, to current legal movements nationwide in Professor Howard Fink’s Law, History & Philosophy Seminar.
“I felt like I learned a lot from that class because everyone in that class spoke without any reservation, which I really appreciated,” Sylvain said. “It facilitated more candor and there was a lot of opportunity to teach each other.”
Not only has law school helped Sylvain establish a second home in the Midwest, she also accredits the last three years to helping her develop her professional identity outside of being a student.
“I would say that holistically, my law school experience has been a humbling one,” she said. “I have my own strengths and I have my own weaknesses and that doesn’t necessarily make me a more or less competent than my peers, it just makes me different. My whole life, I was a student—that was essentially my career. Law school really taught me how to build myself up as a person and to build my brand up as a future attorney.”